Sunday, September 29, 2019
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Liturgical Color: Green
First reading: Amos 6:1a, 4–7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 146:7, 8–9, 9–10
Second reading: 1 Timothy 6:11–16
Gospel Acclamation: see 2 Corinthians 8:9
Gospel: Luke 16:19–31
As we saw in last week’s Bible study, so also this week, in our first reading, we are given a prophecy against the idle rich, who have no concern for anyone but themselves. This week, they are seen reclining on beds made of ivory, drinking wine all day, and composing songs for their amusement. But the Lord pronounces judgment upon them:
Therefore they shall now be the first of those to go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves [comfortably upon their couches] shall pass away.
This prophecy came true with the invasion of the Babylonian army, first in the northern kingdom of Israel, then in the southern kingdom of Judah.
Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council [Vatican II] lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbour without exception as another self, taking into account first of all his life and the means necessary to living it with dignity. […] In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbour of every person without exception and to actively help him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign labourer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, “As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:40) (Gaudium et spes, 27).
If the ruling class won’t defend the poor and the neglected, the Lord himself will see to it:
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners,
he upholds the widow and the fatherless;
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Spiritually, this passage refers to those who, while externally deprived, are internally freed from their sins and enlightened, because “the Lord loves the righteous.” On the other hand, “the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”
In this liturgical context, Timothy is presented as the New Testament “man of God,” dedicated to the Lord by his profession of faith, given at his baptism, and his later ordination to the Christian priesthood. He is to defend righteousness by being himself righteous and to defend the faith by himself being faithful, thus giving Christlike example and motive to the people he has been given to shepherd.
As the man of God, Moses receives the revelation of the Lord (Joshua 14:6), legislates in God’s name (Ezra 3:2), and blesses the people (Deuteronomy 33:1). David is called man of God in the context of giving laws concerning worship (2 Chronicles 8:14; Nehemiah 12:24). But it is in reference to the prophets that the title “man of God” appears most frequently (Judges 13:8; 1 Samuel 2:27; 9:6; etc.). It was the role of the prophet to communicate the Lord’s fresh word to his people and also to communicate the people’s need to the Lord by interceding for them (Jeremiah 15:11). Hence “man of God” connotes a prophetic authority, which means being a channel of God’s will for his people and of the people’s needs to God. (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture)
According to the commentaries, the doxology at the end of this passage is one of the most sublime in all of Scripture.
This and the other hymns which appear in the letter show that the first Christians were fully aware that man’s true purpose in life is to give glory to God. “We do not live for the world, or for our own honour, but for the honour of God, for the glory of God, for the service of God. That is what should motivate us!” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge, 851). (Navarre Bible Commentary)
This week’s gospel is well known: the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus presents it to exemplify the same situation that the prophet Amos points out in real life: the idle rich neglecting their charge to care for the sick and the poor. Lazarus spent his days begging at the gate of the rich man. The rich man, for his part, could not be bothered with that poor beggar. He had “more important things to do”: taking care of himself. He reasoned, calumniously: “Why shouldn’t I reward myself? After all, I’ve worked and earned my fortune. That beggar just sits there and expects others to serve him.”
“Lazarus” is derived from the Hebrew “Eleazar,” a very common name meaning “God has helped” (see 2 Maccabees 8:23). Since Abraham enters the parable next, Lazarus is a fitting name, since Abraham’s servant (Genesis 15:2) was similarly called Eliezer (“my God is help”). The rich man, however, was of no help to Lazarus (see Psalm 146:3–5).
Death comes for both men. The rich man can afford to be buried. No burial of the poor man is mentioned, yet he receives a greater privilege by being carried away by angels. The reversal of their plight thus begins to be seen. Lazarus ends up in the bosom of Abraham — that is, at his side (same word as in John 13:23). The rich man, however, is in the netherworld — that is, Hades or Sheol.… There, he suffers torment (in “flames,” v. 24; see Sirach 21:9–10), a point repeated several times (Luke 16:24, 25, 28, using two Greek words). Nonetheless, he saw (literally, “sees”) Abraham far off. Jesus’ earlier words apply: “There will be wailing… when you see Abraham… in the kingdom of God and you… cast out” (Luke 13:28). The poor man, however, is receiving the promised beatitude: “Blessed are you who are poor, / for the kingdom of God is yours” (Luke 6:20). (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture)
Let us now look at this parable from another angle: that of the commandments to believe in the gospel and to love our neighbor.
This parable disposes of two errors — that of those who denied the survival of the soul after death and, therefore, retribution in the next life; and that of those who interpreted material prosperity in this life as a reward for moral rectitude, and adversity as punishment. The parable shows that, immediately after death, the soul is judged by God for all its acts — the “particular judgment” — and is rewarded or punished; and that divine revelation is by itself sufficient for men to be able to believe in the next life.
In another area, the parable teaches the innate dignity of every human person, independently of his social, financial, cultural or religious position. And respect for this dignity implies that we must help those who are experiencing any material or spiritual need: “Wishing to come down to topics that are practical and of some urgency, the Council lays stress on respect for the human person: everyone should look upon his neighbour (without any exception) as another self, bearing in mind above all his life and the means necessary for living it in a dignified way lest he follow the example of the rich man who ignored Lazarus, the poor man” (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 27). (Navarre Bible Commentary)
Seeing these points, it is no wonder that Abraham denies all three of the Rich Man’s requests. He is in hell, where no one’s desire can be granted. In his earthly life, his self-will ruled, but now, in eternity, he must — against his own will — do God’s will.